The French government has published a new draft decree aiming to ban, again, terms such as “steak”, “grill” or “spare ribs” being used to describe plant-based meat alternatives. In 2022, France became the first country in the EU to attempt to issue a decree protecting meat-related words against use by plant-based products, but it was suspended by France’s top administrative court, the Council of State, for being too vague. Now the agriculture ministry has prepared a new decree, which it says takes into account the judges’ complaints. The decree has been submitted to the European Commission for checking against its detailed food labelling rules.

The draft decree only applies to products made and sold in France, not European imports. It bans a list of 21 meat names to describe protein-based products, including “steak”, “escalope”, “ham” or “butcher”. More than 120 other meat-associated names such as “sausage”, “cooked ham”, “poultry”, “nugget” or “bacon” will still be allowed but only if the products do not exceed a certain amount of plant proteins (between 0.5% and 6%). Healthy vegan food such as fruit, legumes, vegetables, and grains, or already vegan dishes such as ratatouille, will not be affected by this new decree. 

Marc Fesneau, the French agriculture minister, said the new government decree was about helping shoppers and “an issue of transparency and honesty responding to the legitimate expectations of consumers and producers”.

Charlotte Minvielle, of the French Green party Europe Écologie Les Verts, tweeted that the government had made a priority of “defending the meat lobby”. Catherine Hélayel, from the Animalist party, tweeted that rather than attacking words, the government should focus on animal and human suffering as well as the climate crisis and the impact of animal farming.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.